Below is a description of a lecture I attended last night at the John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington, D.C. It was excellent.
Wonder and Knowledge
A conference on the origin of the universe in science and philosophy and the role of wonder in scientific discovery.
Speakers: Marco BERSANELLI, Professor of Astrophysics, University of Milan, and author of From Galileo to Gell-Mann: The Wonder that Inspired the Greatest Scientists of All Time: In Their Own Words by Templeton Press, and Michael HELLER, Professor of Philosophy, Pontifical Academy of Theology, Krakow - 2008 Templeton Prize winner
Presented by Crossroads Cultural Center
Prof. Marco Bersanelli and Prof. Michael Heller are both accomplished scientists and deep thinkers about the meaning and value of the scientific enterprise.
If we must try and point out a common feature of their work, we will notice that both of them view science as a deeply human activity. To them, science does not stand in isolation, separate from the rest of human experience, but rather is deeply rooted in it. For one thing, science rests on deep philosophical and even theological assumptions which are often taken for granted. But more fundamentally, as is well illustrated by both Prof. Bersanelli's new book and the numerous publications by Prof Heller, science requires men and women who face reality full of wonder and curiosity. There is a common misconception that science is all about objectivity and detachment, like some kind of mechanical process. But history shows again and again that the greatest scientists were those who were most passionate about knowledge, those most fascinated by nature. Only interest in the mystery of the universe, and the desire to know it, have made them able to look with open eyes and to go beyond the preconceptions of their time.
However, science does not give itself this interest and this desire. It must receive it from outside, from a human and cultural context. So much so that when this context is denied, when it is claimed that science is the only self-sufficient, all-encompassing form of human knowledge, science itself suffers. Scientistic ideology is an enemy of real science, precisely because by denying the fundamental human experience of what Einstein called "the Mystery," it cuts off scientific research from its deepest sources.
Professor Bersanelli will help us to explore what lies at the root of true science, while Professor Heller will develop the theme of the role of wonder in the process of knowledge, by facing one of the most fascinating topics that has always captivated humankind’s attention—the origin of the universe.